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  • My Turn: An Investment in Radiology

    By N. Reed Dunnick, MD

    March 1, 2017

    We can all be proud of the role medical imaging and image-guided therapy play in healthcare today. Computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) are ranked among the most important advances in all of medicine. Ultrasound has advanced from “A mode” to color and power Doppler imaging and now adds elastography and contrast enhancement to its suite of capabilities. An increasing array of unique radiopharmaceuticals interrogate at the cellular level, and we use dramatically improved intravascular contrast media. At the same time, we are learning to image patients more safely, with reduced levels of ionizing radiation.

    The advances are not limited to diagnostic studies, but include the applications of imaging to the procedures done by interventional radiologists and radiation oncologists. Imaging helps assess the progress being made during an interventional procedure. Radiation oncologists employ these advances in imaging to improve the quality of care they deliver. By better defining the precise extent of a tumor, a higher dose can be delivered to the tumor while sparing normal tissue. These techniques, including stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT), intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT), and 4-D conformal radiation therapy are now the standard of care.

    As we recognize that tumors are heterogeneous, with some parts behaving aggressively and others more indolently, we are able to target the most active portion of a tumor with greater precision. This is helpful not only to assure biopsy of the most aggressive part of the tumor, but also to direct treatment most appropriately.

    Of course, these advances would not be possible without our colleagues in medical imaging physics. Their research and their participation in the daily practice of radiology and radiation oncology are essential to our field.

    How can we ensure the continuation of these advances in medical imaging and their applications to image-guided therapies? The single largest source of funding for medical research is the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Its budget of more than $32 billion is by far the largest medical research budget in the world. If radiologists, radiation oncologists and medical physicists are to be successful in conducting impactful research, NIH funding will be essential. However, with pay lines approaching single digits, NIH funding is not easy to secure. This is where investment in the RSNA Research & Education (R&E) Foundation plays a critical role. A grant from the R&E Foundation is the first step in the research journey for many. An R&E grant affords investigators critical protected time to define their research goals, pursue hypotheses and gather data needed to jumpstart their efforts and validate their research.

    The radiologic community generously supports the R&E Foundation, and donations from individuals, private practice groups and corporations through the Inspire – Innovate – Invest Campaign have increased our endowment and enabled the Foundation to award a record-setting $4 million to 101 grant recipients in 2016.

    I consider my contributions not only as support for the society’s mission, but also as an investment in the future of radiology with a demonstrated return. You will be very pleased to know that every dollar awarded by the R&E Foundation results in over $40 dollars of additional funding as principal or co-investigator from sources such as the NIH. By supporting the Campaign and contributing to the Foundation, we are making a wonderful investment in our future!

    N. Reed Dunnick, MD, is the Fred Jenner Hodges Professor of Radiology at the University of Michigan Health System in Ann Arbor. Dr. Dunnick is chair of the RSNA Research & Education (R&E) Foundation Board of Trustees and served as RSNA president in 2014.


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